Midterm Break Commentary

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From the first person perspective of a young school boy as the protagonist, Seamus Heaney reflects on his own childhood memory in the poem “Mid-term Break”. The reader discovers through reading the poem that Heaney returns home for the funeral of his younger brother’s car accident. The author illustrates the theme grief through diction, puns, and structure. The diction chosen in this poem are not only for the readers to understand the situation but are also very powerful and meaningful. In the beginning of the poem, the protagonist is “counting bells knelling classes to a close”. The word knell is the sound made by a bell at a funeral. This builds up the tone of the poem, and hints the readers about the rest of the poem. Further into the poem, the protagonist “met [his] father crying” and his mom “coughed out angry tearless signs”. The diction of “tearless” strongly contrasts to the diction of “crying”. This conveys that the mother is too upset to cry, when the dad is actually letting his feelings out. The word “break” from the title “Mid-term break” is a pun. When that phrase is heard during the school year, it is always a happy and free time for children with family and friends but happiness is not illustrated in this poem. The word “break” can mean the family splitting apart or tree’s branches breaking which all are signs or grief and death. When "Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow" for everyone, the word “blow” can imply that a person is blowing or exhaling hard or a sudden hard stroke or hit. The structure of “Mid-term Break” is three-line-stanzas with the exception of the last line which stands out alone. Heaney describes his brother in “a four foot box, a foot, for every year”. The alliteration, the simplexes of the one syllable words and the abrupt ending emphasizes the sadness of the sudden death of a young child. The author uses many enjambments between lines and this gives the reader an impression of a person crying and talking at the same time...
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